Pulse: March / April 2014 Art Auctions

Dubious practices continue to plague art auction houses as low-priced lots by modern masters are sold at Masterpiece, whom features an altered painting. KL Lifestyle Art Space touts previously unsold works at lower prices then flips a Jeihan Sukmantoro piece at a discount, implicating the struggling dealer who records a dismal 30% buy-in rate in its April edition. Henry Butcher stakes its claim as the pioneer and leading Malaysian auctioneer, by selling 97% of its 116 lots, despite the lack of superstar pieces and an increase of buyer's premium to 12%. Its commendable and ambitious push to promote art beyond pretty pictures again fails to sustain any traction, as prints and works by the Matahati collective receive little bidding. Discerning collectors willingly pay more for earlier iterations of signature themes by realist painters Kow Leong Kiang and Ahmad Zakii Anwar, although both artists' stock value are declining.

Tan Peng Hooi - Kampung Life (1966)

This observation of depreciating values apply for most artists featured at auctions, with a few exceptions such as Syed Thajudeen and Lui Cheng Thak, while prices for Huang Yao oscillate wildly. Other market trends see Singaporean buyers lapping up any modern work by artists whose surname starts with 'C', a sardonic move that calls to mind the preservation of cultural heritage, in the name of establishing a locale as an international arts hub. The art market is capable of sending investors into a zeal, evident in the recent stocking up of Awang Damit Ahmad works after his abstract painting sold at Sotheby's. However, one needs to be mindful of inflating prices, where its repercussions are inferred from the three unsold watercolours by Nik Zainal Abidin. The overly high estimates can be attributed to price tags seen at the retrospective show in May 2013, itself a collector's stock clearing exercise.

Dede Eri Supria - Mencoba Untuk Tumbuh (1992)